When John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, on the surface it appeared that he was making a bold statement in support of women and their role in American government. McCain’s motivation in this choice was purely political. McCain is no Feminist and I have my doubts about Palin in this regard.
Feminism means different things to different people. When stripped down to the bare bones, Feminism is all about gender equality, which, in theory at least, should transcend partisan politics. But as prominent women (Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, for example) have recently entered the realm of presidential politics, Feminism, much like the notion of patriotism, has lent itself to subjective interpretation.
Over the last several decades, anytime women have sought admittance to traditionally all-male institutions, whether it be private clubs, the military, the clergy, universities, etc., the reception has been mixed and the inevitable, but most often valid charges of sexism have arisen. The present presidential campaign has been no different. In May of this year, I happened to be in the Portland airport when I noticed a man wearing a tee shirt that read "Life’s a Bitch, So Don’t Elect One." To say that I was offended would be an understatement. If American’s had been playing a drinking game during this political season and had to chug a beer every time they heard the word "bitch," Mrs. McCain would be one wealthy woman. Wait a minute; she already is a wealthy woman.
Then Sarah Palin burst upon the scene. Her executive qualifications aside, the manner in which the McCain campaign chose to showcase her family, warts-and-all, and as some have implied, "use them as props," subjected her to certain sexist ridicule (of which I am as culpable as the next person), that in retrospect, seems nearly as disgraceful as the thinly-veiled bigotry aimed at Barack Obama by the motley crew that are John McCain’s surrogates. Like millions of devotees of Saturday Night Live, I was rolling on the floor laughing at Tina Fey’s masterful mockery of Sarah Palin. Her performance was the gift that keeps on giving for me as less than a couple of days later, I was once again rolling on the floor laughing at Carly Fiorina’s accusation that the Tina Fey sketch was somehow sexist.
Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about an issue that really has sexist overtones. One in which there is no grey area. And one for which political candidates can tell us exactly where they stand; no ifs, ands, or buts. It’s Time for Working Women to Earn Equal Pay.
Equal pay has been the law since 1963. But today, nearly 45 years later, women are still paid less than men—even with similar education, skills and experience.
In 2007, women were paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Economist Evelyn Murphy, president and founder of The WAGE Project, estimates the wage gap costs the average full-time U.S. woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her work life.
Where do the presidential candidates and their respective political parties stand on this issue? It’s simple. Obama/Biden are for "Equal Pay for Equal Work" and have been long before entering the 2008 Presidential contest. Not surprisingly, the McCain/Palin ticket opposes this legislation. Senate Republicans killed the so-called "Lilly Ledbetter Bill," which Obama co-sponsored, that would have counteracted a Supreme Court decision limiting how long workers can wait before suing for pay discrimination. McCain claimed to support the notion of "equal pay," but failed to show to vote on the bill that he opposed on the basis that would "open us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems." Sounds like something that George W. Bush would say, nes pa? Sarah Palin also pays lip service to "equal pay" but, like McCain and the rest of the GooPers, opposes legislation that would facilitate workers’ grievances in this regard.
In other words, they support equal pay as a theory, but they don't support an effective remedy for women who don't discover within 180 days that they are being paid less than male employees doing the same work. McCain and Palin want to continue to give discriminating employers an easy way to avoid the law: keep pay decisions secret for 180 days, and they get a pass for their illegal conduct. It's nice to know that some things never change, including Republican support for business interests over employees' rights.
Talk about sexism all you want, but in my humble opinion, the true test of which presidential ticket is Pro-Woman comes down to where they stand on the issue of "Equal Pay for Equal Work."